Take a moment to think about the entry doors in your house. Do they open inward or outward? If you picked the first choice, you’re not alone—the entry doors of most homes open inward. But is that the best thing? Not in the case of severe winds. That’s because inward opening doors actually work with the wind to blow open. I know several people who learned this firsthand as they struggled to keep their front doors closed during a hurricane (Remember—keeping wind out of the house is key to keeping your roof on in severe winds). On the other hand, if entry doors open outward, the wind actually helps to keep them closed. So, if you’re building a new home now or thinking about replacing your existing home’s entry doors, consider installing outward opening entry doors. It’s an easy way to strengthen your home against high winds.
How would you like to generate electricity for your home as a by-product of heating your home? In a way, you'd be changing your home heating system into a hybrid, squeezing every last bit of efficiency out of the fuel you burn. This kind of energy generation, known as combined heat and power (CHP), has been done for years by large industrial operations but never seemed possible on a small scale. Now Climate Systems of Medfield, Massachusetts, is preparing to introduce residential CHP systems in the New England area in January 2007. In areas where heating is a necessity (ahem, New England anyone?) it is estimated these units can cut your electricity bills in half. The units are pricey ($13,000 to $20,000) but with the savings they generate they can pay for themselves in three to seven years. After those startup costs are recouped, every dollar the unit generates goes directly to you in savings. Already units like these have been installed in 30,000 homes in Japan. As one homeowner says, "It's like printing money."